Friday, November 18, 2011

Best brownies ever

Since I was stranded in bed with my iPhone last week recovering from a pulled muscle in my back, I spent quite a bit of time on the Epicurious app.  I found what looked to be an easy, quick brownie recipe with great reviews.  While in Atlanta a few weekends ago I visited Your Dekalb Farmers Market, which is a post in and of itself, and picked up a jar of Dulche de Leche.  Up to this point I'd only made my own and seeing it there on the shelf reminded me how much I liked it, and that it would be so super yummy with some chocolate!  Hence, brownies with dulche de leche!

I like my brownies moist, but not overly sweet.  These brownies are rich from all the butter and a little bite suffices nicely.  They were so delicious Chicky and I made two batches that week because they were so popular.  Both times I made the brownies I dropped dollops of dulche de leche on the top and spread it with an off set spatula. Another option, for a more candy-like top on the brownies, is to wait and spread on the dulche de leche after the brownies come out of the oven and cool for a little while.

cocoa brownies
Best Cocoa Brownies Evah!
from Epicurious

Makes 16 large or 25 smaller brownies

Use the best cocoa you have for these - any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process will work.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Special equipment: an 8-inch square baking pan.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.  Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.  When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Stir in the nuts, if using.  Spread evenly in the lined pan. Add dulche de leche by dropping a spoon full here and there and then spreading the dropped caramel lightly with an off-set spatula.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter. 20 to 25 minutes.  Let cool completely on rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer brownies to a cutting board.  Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

This is Alton Brown's Dulche de Leche recipe.  It's totally worth the effort and believe me, you will find a way to use up the extra.  It's good on ice cream, cake, and straight off the spoon!

1 quart whole milk
12 ounces sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine the milk, sugar, vanilla bean and seeds in a large, 4-quart saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the baking soda and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low and cook uncovered at a bare simmer. Stir occasionally, but do not re-incorporate the foam that appears on the top of the mixture. Continue to cook for 1 hour. Remove the vanilla bean after 1 hour and continue to cook until the mixture is a dark caramel color and has reduced to about 1 cup, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Strain the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container for up to a month.


Friday, November 11, 2011

New Black Keys album coming out!

This is the video that convinced me my back had to get better soon, because I need to dance and this guy has the moves!


 Love the Black Keys.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Egg overload

The chickens are doing well - really well. They are happy moving around in the ark and digging in the compost for worms (they like bugs, but worms are their favorite) whenever they get the chance. And they lay eggs. Lots of eggs. Six chickens = six eggs a day. We've been having frittas, french toast, scrambled eggs, egg salad, and quiche on a regular basis for dinner and we've still got eggs left over.

Last week my brain remembered that I've made an egg hogging breakfast casserole at Christmas that uses two dozen eggs in one go! I also remembered having lots left over, but that was before the boys hit adolescence and they would actually get full at a meal. Those days are long gone and I had no doubt we'd finish it this time.

It's a filling casserole, thanks to the half loaf of bread in it, so I divided the mixture between two pans and we had one for dinner and the other for a breakfast. I added some sauteed veg to the egg mixture (because I think veg are delicious with eggs and sausage) but I'm betting the original recipe is fine without it.

Cowboy Christmas Breakfast
adapted from Gourmet Today
serves 12

1 (1-pound) package bulk breakfast sausage (not links)
1 (15" long) loaf of Italian bread (about 4" wide)
1/2 stick (4 T.) unsalted butter, softened
24 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 cup red onion, chopped (optional)
1 small zuchhini, sliced (optional)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped (optional)

Put a rack in the middle of oven and preheat oven to 375 degrees. Generously butter a 13-9 baking dish.
Cook sausage in a 12" heavy skillet over moderately high heat, stirring frequently and breakingup large lumps with a fork, until browned, about 10 minutes. Pour off fat from skillet (I used some of this fat to saute the veg) and cool sausage to room temperature.
Saute onions in the same skillet, if you wish, until translucent. Add zucchini and tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes have slightly broken down.
Cut 1-inch-thick slices from half of loaf; reserve remaining halve and end piece for anther use.
Pulse butter and garlic in a food processor until smooth (I mixed mine together in a bowl, small chunks of garlic don't bother me). Spread a thin layer of garlic butter on both sides of each slice of bread, arranging bread tightly in one layer in baking dish. Sprinkle sausage on top.
Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until frothy. Whisk in scallions, vegetables, and half of cheese. Pour egg mixture over sausage (bread will float to the top) and push down on bread with a spatula to help it absorb liquid. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Cover with a large sheet of buttered foil (buttered side down) and bake for 30 minutes. Carefully remove foil and bake until top is slightly puffed and eggs are cooked through in center, about 20 minutes more.
Let casserole cool for 10 minutes, then cut into 12 squares.

Note: This dis can be assembles up to 12 hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with buttered foil. Bake as directed.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Each morning as we drive to school we round a corner in the road and there's an open field. Some days there's a cloud hanging low nestling among the trees on the edges. A month ago there were over forty Canada geese foraging for breakfast in the mornings, only their graceful heads peeking up over the tall cover. This morning the sky was pink and clear and every single airplane that had flown by had a trail hovering - more than twenty. Almost every morning I think (as I'm on the road), I should bring my camera and take a picture of the sunrise every day. Quickly followed by a list of reasons it wouldn't work: the peeps would need to cooperate, I'd need my tri-pod, etc.

A few times I'd take pictures while I waited for the boys to be done with soccer practice.



Or I'd have someone else in the car take a picture with my phone.


Now, soccer season is over and the days are getting shorter; if I want any more good sunrises and sunsets it's going to take a little more effort on my part. I've been missing Lake Superior on fall mornings - the field down the road isn't as majestic, but it's what I've got.

Sublime Superior
(photo by Ryan Sommers -rpsommers - on flickr)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Shoo Fly Cake

Last Thursday Bowen and I made an apple pie for Ag Day at Orange High. He, unfortunately, didn't get to have any and I said I would make one this week. Well, here it is Wednesday and there's been no sign of a pie in this house. Today I decided I would do a super quick, easy, and delicious replacement cake. I'm sure the peeps won't mind! This is a recipe from my mom, which I've modified slightly. No, I didn't get rid of the fat, I just made it yummier!

Shoo Fly Cake

4 c. flour
1 c. butter (2 sticks)
1 box brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Mix above ingredients.
Measure two cups and set aside.

Add to the remaining mixture:
2 c. boiling water
1c. molasses (unsulphured)
2 tsp. baking soda

Pour into a 9" x 13" baking pan, sprinkle two cups reserved flour and butter mixture on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-45 minutes. Check at 35 minutes!

For super deliciousness, top with pure whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Is fall staying?

Not sure if Autumn is here to stay, but I am so happy it's cool enough to sit outside and spin and there are no mosquitos! Now the only danger is neighbors burning trash (and plastic) while I'm trying to enjoy myself. Four hours of trash/plastic burning yesterday - right behind my house! I had to close all the windows (aaarrrhh!). Seriously, I don't get it. All right, the leaf burning I don't really get either, but at least they're leaves! We have a dump site five miles away if you're too cheap to pay for a service to come pick up your trash (and I am too cheap for that! I go to the dump once every 2-3 weeks). Saving garbage to burn, especially when the noxious fumes and black smoke are filling the air is bizarre to me.

All right, on to fiber! Chicky's super cute gauntlets are finished

chicky gauntlets

and now I'm back to spinning. The two skeins of blue three ply are done!


This is another roving that's been waiting for attention (for years!) and finally got it.


That roving is also two skeins of three ply and they are drying. Next up, another blue roving, this time with some greens. This is so much fun I'm tempted to either dye some more fiber to spin or pull the rest from my Etsy shop!

Wait till you see what knitting I finish this weekend.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Rainy day

Today is a "bursting" day in exercise land. I'm up from 30 seconds of running full tilt and then walking for a minute to 45 seconds or running. Feels pretty good! It might be difficult to stay motivated today with the rain. I used to chronically suffer from shin splints (even fast walking) and I haven't for the past six weeks. This week? Shin splints. Do I think it's running for 15 seconds longer each burst? Nope. I've been at the spinning wheel quite a bit this past week. I used to have a single treadle wheel which seemed worse to me, because only one shin hurt like blazes. Now I have a double treadle and both shins hurt evenly. You could argue I must be doing it wrong somehow, and I might be inclined to agree with you. I just don't know how else to make the pedals go up and down other than by pushing them with my feet!

All the spinning is for a good reason: 2011 Autumn Yarn Crawl is fast approaching! I'm going to be pedaling my fiber wares at Cozy in Durham on October 9. A bag of lovelies will be raffled (the tickets are free) and what could be better than being surrounded by fiber and other people who appreciate it as much as you do?

I'll give you a sneak peek at what I'm taking along. Everything in the Etsy shop will be going as well as some freshly dyed merino/silk fingering, worsted, and DK weight yarn. This is more of a yarn event than a roving, but I'll be taking a little, just in case.

Here's a peek at some of the new stuff!

cozy presale peek

Who knows what else I can get done until Oct. 9? Hopefully, a lot!